It's taken a perfect storm of injuries, a coach few believed could bring along young players, and a GM praised and demonized for the Big 3 era to get the cast of the Wizards playing how we hoped they would. We're getting our fourth quarter games, and hopefully that momentum carries into the offseason (and remains unaffected by a prospective lockout...)
To be frank, at this point, I'm comfortable with both Flip Saunders and Ernie Grunfeld staying where they are for at least another year.
Flip still loves that zone like women stuck in the 80's love their perm, but Doc Rivers had plenty of his own trouble before Danny Ainge worked his magic. Maybe Flip works out and maybe he doesn't, but I don't think there's a question he's been invigorated by the challenge. When I see him on the sidelines he's animated, he's coaching everyone. As some of us have pointed out, giving Javale McGee extra leash seems to have elevated his game. Maybe most will want to give credit to Gene Banks or Javale himself, but even in a worst case scenario, Javale doesn't get on the floor or stay in the game without Flip being willing to try something new.
Hawks fans are still anguished over Larry Drew's unwillingness to play Jeff Teague and are in a state of polite disbelief concerning Jordan Crawford. Many are discussing rebuilding around Al Horford. For once, we aren't Hornets fans discussing whether or not Monty Williams' decision to bury Marcus Thornton on the bench and Dell Demps' subsequent decision to trade him to the Kings makes one nore culpable than the other. With Grunfeld at the helm that hasn't been us. There are no Chris Webber/Richard Hamilton/Ben Wallace/Rasheed Wallace situations waiting to rear up like the ghost of Christmas past. I defended the Kirk Hinrich trade and the decision to swap draft picks with Minnesota. At this point it's laughable to think anyone besides Bill Simmons would criticize the Atlanta trade. Our major criteria for Ernie was that he show evidence of the ability to get us players that would work together, to create a contender that would go farther than the Big 3 did. Hasn't he made a good start?
I'm tired of the argument that so few GMs get the chance to clean up their own mess. If a GM candidate showed up right after Gungate happened and said, ‘I can dump Antawn Jamison,Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Deshawn Stevenson for a few picks, marginal young guys, and expirings,' we'd have been listening. If that same guy said, ‘In the offseason, we'll have multiple first round picks and pick up a high character veteran on the cheap to fill the leadership gap,' we'd be nodding. If he said, ‘Gilbert Arenas will be traded by midseason for a slightly better contract, but for a personality that won't distract anyone, and will finally let us move on. P.S. I will also trade our high character veteran to a middleweight contender looking to move up in weight class for their first round draft pick, a prospect we had rated highly last year, an expiring, and some backcourt help to replace our veteran,' we'd be handing him a contract, right?
Of course, hindsight can easily be slanted, but I don't think it's difficult to say Ernie has done very well with the opportunities and challenges thrown his way. Who's to say a new GM doesn't look to make a further break with the old regime at the trade deadline by trading Nick Young while his value is high along with, say Javale McGee and Kirk Hinrich, for an ‘All-Star' in Andrew Bynum? Maybe he includes Trevor Booker and we can enjoy our very own Shannon Brown. This could have gone so much worse up until this point on both the coaching and personnel fronts, but everyone has their own view on it. What's yours?